The Ultimate City Guide to Athens

If you’re planning a city break to Athens, you’re in the right place. I recently spent 3 days and 3 nights in the fascinating Greek capital with my sister. With the help of Discover Greece, my sister and I landed in Athens with a list of authentic recommendations. Listing everything from restaurants to rooftop bars and coffee shops to Greek souvlaki shops, we had local knowledge on our side from the off. We worked our way through the recommendations, and now it’s time to pass some of my favourites on to you. Here is the ultimate City Guide to Athens.

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Introducing Athens

Athens has always been known for its incredible ancient history. This history still proudly stands in the form of The Acropolis, but the city has recently regenerated itself with a modern twist. Thanks to the population of young Greek creatives and business-minds, the new wave of coffee-culture, rooftop bars and artistic pop ups have positively transformed the city. Because of this, it has fast become one of Europe’s most interesting ‘new’ city break destinations.

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Getting Around

Despite being a capital city, everything in Athens is relatively compact. You can reach all of the sights on foot and many of the streets are pedestrianised, making your strolls much more relaxing. There is an underground Metro that connects the whole city and taxis are cheap and plentiful.

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Top 5 Things to Do in Athens

There is so much to discover in Athens beyond the museums. Here are the top 5 things to do which are a must for all city breaks!

1.Be Amazed by The Acropolis

No city guide to Athens would be complete without a climb to the top of the magnificent Acropolis. The Parthenon stands tall at the top of The Acropolis and towers over the city below. The history of this UNESCO World Heritage site is mind-boggling and the new Acropolis Museum helps bring it all to life.

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2. Explore the Back Streets of Anafiotika

Anafiotika is a true hidden gem of Athens. This miniature village sits at the foothill of the Acropolis and feels a world away from the busy cosmopolitan streets of Athens. The narrow alleyways, cobbled streets and white-washed houses make you feel like you’ve been transported to a magical Greek island.

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 3. Wander through Plaka

Plaka is Athen’s most popular area for tourists, and for good reason. There is a photo opportunity around every corner and the sun-drenched piazzas are filled with al-fresco restaurants, quaint churches and gelato shops. The street of Andrianou is the best place to pick up some authentic souvenirs and gifts. At the end of Andrianou there is also a popular strip of restaurants all with al fresco tables. Plaka Old Town oozes that traditional Greek charm you’re dying to discover.

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 4. Find Hidden Treasures in Athens Flea Market

The Flea Market of Athens may be overlooked by many, but a visit here is simply fascinating. A melting pot of the weird, the wonderful and the downright bizarre, a captivating stroll through Athens flea market could last for hours. Find some treasure of your own and put your negotiation skills to the test.

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5. Soak Up the Sights of Syntagma Square

Syntagma Square is possibly the most famous square in the whole of Greece and has a complex political history behind it. On one side of the square you’ll find the grand Parliament Building, which was formerly the King’s Palace between 1836 and 1840. The square is always buzzing with energy and is now home to three famous luxury hotels that stand side by side; The King George, The Grand Bretagne and The NJV Plaza.
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The Ultimate City Guide to Athens
Top 3 Rooftop Bars

What makes Athens so on trend right now is its many rooftop bars. These establishments are often hidden away and hard to find, which means they’re only found by people in the know. Depending on whether you go during the day time, at sunset or at night, you’ll get a completely different perspective of The Acropolis. We visited a different rooftop bar on each day of our trip. Here were our finds;

  1. The Roof Garden at Electra Metropolis
    Mitropoleos 15, Athina 105 57, Greece

Perched on the top floor of the 5-star Electra Metropolis hotel, this was definitely the most luxurious and chic rooftop bar we visited. However, the drinks are surprisingly affordable and a glass of wine will only set you back about 4 euros. We watched the sun set over the whitewashed houses and sink behind the mountains. It was the most magical moment of our trip.

  1. Couleur Locale
    105 55, Normanou 3, Athina 105 55, Greece

Couleur Locale was the coolest rooftop bar we visited in Athens and felt like a secret society of creative locals. Accessed via a side street off of Ermou, the unassuming groundfloor bar looks nothing special. But enter the lift and you’ll be transported to the top floor which is a hub of energy. The setting is spectacular, the music is great and the cocktails are delicious.

  1. 360 Bar
    Ifestou 2, Athina 105 55, Greece

360 Bar is just as buzzing in the daytime as at night. The rooftop bar is a suntrap by day with funky house music and a real party feel. But it’s not all about the alcohol here. Locals will come here to drink coffee, socialise and soak up the sun.

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The Ultimate City Guide to Athens
Where to Eat

The food alone is reason enough to visit Athens and you can expect quality, fresh and delicious local produce. Most restaurants serve Greek cuisine (naturally) but you’ll also find alternatives such as Italian and sushi. Here are some of my favourite finds

7 Food Sins
Pl. Filomousou Eterias 1, Athina 105 58, Greece

Located on Plaka’s quaint Filomousou Square, 7 Food Sins is a ‘gastro pub’ serving traditional Greek food with a modern twist. Think of is as an evolution of it’s neighbouring and more traditional restaurants. It’s set in an old townhouse and the interiors are beautiful.

Nice N Easy
Omirou 60, Athens 106 72, Greece

Nice N Easy is a contemporary Mediterranean restaurant located about a 15 minute walk from Syntagma Square. The dishes on the creative menu are named after Hollywood greats and famous musicians, adding a playful feel to the restaurant. We ate here on our second night and the setting, wine and food was gorgeous. The only downfall is that it doesn’t serve traditionally Greek food, which is what we really wanted.

Ergon Greek Deli & Cuisine
26 Mitropoleos Str., Athens, Greece GR 10563

We ate here on our first night in Athens and it was the perfect re-introduction to all of our favourite greek dishes. We feasted on fresh Greek salad, hummus, warm pitta bread and delicious zucchini balls with feta cheese. The Ergon house red wine here is also divine and very affordable.

iFeel
Karaiskaki 33, Athina 105 54, Greece

If you’re planning a bit of a night out and want more of a tapas style dinner, head to iFeel in the buzzing nightlife area of Plaka. The outdoor seating area is the perfect place for people watching and sharing wine and nibbles with friends. Be sure to order the Parmesan rocks which come smothered in honey, and the tempura prawn is also wonderful.

Kostas Souvlaki Shop Saint Irene Square

Kostas is said by many Athenians to be the best Souvlaki shop in Athens, so we had to go and see for ourselves. This tiny kiosk serves up chicken and pork souvlakis in a takeaway style. You’ll see a stream of locals queuing up outside the door throughout the day, and it’s well worth the wait. The meat is succulent, the pitta was fresh and for only 3 euros each it’s an absolute bargain.

Avocado Vegetarian Restaurant
Nikis 30, Athina 105 57, Greece

We didn’t eat here, but the guide on our walking tour pointed it out to us as it’s one of the most popular vegetarian restaurants in Athens. Well worth noting down for any veggies reading this.

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The Ultimate City Guide to Athens
Where to Shop

Ermou

Ermou is Athen’s commercial high street where you’ll find lots of familiar European and English brands. The long street is pedestrianised and runs from to Syntagma Square, through Monastiraki, to Thissio.

Andrianou

Andrianou and its surrounding Plaka streets have an abundance of interesting shops selling everything from handmade Greek sandles and accessories to local produce such as olive oil and ouzo. If you want to shop off-high street, this is where to come.

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The Ultimate City Guide to Athens
Where to Party

It’s worth noting that thing start late in Athens, and by late, I mean that most locals won’t have dinner til about 10pm. This means that the pre-dinner bar scene doesn’t get going until about 12pm-1am. If you want a night out in true Athens style, prepare to be awake until the very early hours.

Psiri

To make things simple for you, the bustling neighbourhood of Psiri is the place to go for nightlife. Don’t be fooled by its sleepy day time demeanour. By night, the area comes alive with vibrant cocktail bars, outdoor drinking areas and an exciting hum of chatter. Whilst everyone is drinking, nobody seems to get drunk, which I love (as it feels a million miles from the binge drinking culture of Britain). Head to the ultra cool Six d.o.g.s for some artisan cocktails or indulge in some fine wines at iFeel.

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The Ultimate City Guide to Athens
Where to Drink Coffee

Coffee culture in Athens is a way to see and be seen. There are plenty of outdoor cafes to choose from where you can sit and enjoy coffee after coffee whilst watching the fashion show of passers by. You’ll struggle to find a coffee place that offers takeaway cups, unless you head to Starbucks. Do as the locals do; order a “Freddo” iced coffee and watch the world go by.

Tailormade, Saint Irene Square
Pl. Agias Irinis 2, Athens 105 60, Greece

Tables at this trendy hangout are hot property. Serving up coffees, imaginative cocktails and DJ sets, this place is Athenian hipster heaven.

Spollati
Aiolou 27, Athens 105 60, Greece

A stone’s throw from Tailormade is Spollati, another ridiculously cool hangout with an equally good choice of cocktails and coffee. By night this small bar comes alive and has a real 1920’s vibe.

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The Ultimate City Guide to Athens
Where to find a Greek Breakfast

The Greeks aren’t big on breakfast. Instead, they prefer to grab a mid-morning snack on the go in the form of a pretzel. You’ll find pretzel stands all over the city, but for the freshest and tastiest kind, head straight to the source. There is a famous famous Pretzel bakery in Psiri that is open 24 hours a day.

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The Ultimate City Guide to Athens
Where to Stay

The New Hotel
Filellinon 16, Athina 105 57, Greece

In my humble opinion there is only once place to stay in Athens, and it’s The New Hotel. This was my base during my city break to Athens and it ticked every box for me. The boutique 4* hotel is incredibly well located a few minutes walk from Syntagma Square. Check out my full Hotel Review of The New Hotel, Athens.

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What did you think of my ultimate city guide to Athens? Are there any other gems in Athens you think should get a mention? Or perhaps you’re planning to visit some of these places on an upcoming trip?

If you found this guide interesting or useful, please leave me a comment in the box below. Jess x

Want to read more on Athens? Check out my 15 Reasons to Plan a City Break to Athens


 For more on information on Greece, visit DiscoverGreece.com

 Check out Aegean Airline’s low fare finder for their lowest available air fares to Athens. 


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12 Comments

  1. 5th April 2017 / 8:59 am

    Being a local, I was touched by the way you saw things in my city: as through our own eyes, under the Athenian light. Love to follow your posts; now for one more reason, since I can be sure what I read really stands out!

    • Jessica
      6th April 2017 / 9:06 am

      Hi Alexandros. I am so pleased that you feel I did your city justice. It truly is an amazing place and hopefully others will begin to see it that way. Hope you come back to the blog again soon. Thanks for your comment. Jess

  2. sandy
    3rd April 2017 / 5:26 pm

    I just read your comments on Athens. I’m thinking about taking my 17 year old there for a few weeks this summer. Some people tell me that they don’t think it is a safe place? We also want to get out of town. What are your thoughts about renting a car? Thanks so much! It sure looks lovely.

    • Jessica
      4th April 2017 / 9:17 am

      Hi Sandy! Thanks for your comment. Athens felt like a very safe place to me but I am sure there is an element of crime in all capital cities. I think you’d have a great time with your 17 year old but you wouldn’t need a few weeks in Athens. 3-4 days would be enough. If you have time left over, why not combine it with a trip to one of the nearby Greek islands? You can take a ferry from the Port of Athens. That would be a great combination of beach and city culture.

  3. 31st March 2017 / 2:44 pm

    Oh girl it looks/sounds like you had the BEST time! I’ve never been to Athens but would love to go (especially now I’ve read this!), packed with so many fab tips!

    Hayley xo
    http://www.frockmeimfamous.com

    • Jessica
      31st March 2017 / 4:40 pm

      Hi Hayley! We really did have an awesome time in Athens. It’s one of my favourite European cities now! I really hope it inspires others to discover it, including you 🙂 If you ever go, this can be your go-to guide xx

    • Jessica
      31st March 2017 / 4:41 pm

      Thanks Angie! We did squeeze a lot in but it would have been impossible to get round the full list of recommendations from Discover Greece – there were so many! x

  4. 29th March 2017 / 2:41 pm

    This is a great guide I wish i’d read it before going to Athens! They definitely have a much later evening scene, we were practically eating alone on the first night when we sat down for dinner at 7.30! xxx

    Sophia xx http://sophiawhitham.co.uk

    • Jessica
      29th March 2017 / 5:46 pm

      Thanks for your comment Sophia! Hope it comes In handy for people before they travel. Yes I can imagine there was tumbleweed in the restaurants at 7.30! Xx

  5. 29th March 2017 / 7:44 am

    Jess, this looks like a really comprehensive guide. And the photos are great as always. I’d love to visit Greece, especially the islands! Hopefully one day. xoxo, nano

    • Jessica
      29th March 2017 / 5:47 pm

      Aww thanks Nano! You’re comment means a lot. Greece is such a beautiful country, I’m sure you’ll get there one day xx